Josh Allen vs. Justin Herbert vs. Patrick Mahomes: Which top-tier QB should you draft first in fantasy football?

Entering the 2022 fantasy football season, three quarterbacks stand out above the rest: Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and Patrick Mahomes. These three signal-callers sit in the top tier of our QB rankings and are the first QBs going off draft boards. Allen stood out as the best last season, scoring a total of 417.58 fantasy points in 17 games, but it’s fair to wonder if he can continue his dominance.

Herbert and Mahomes weren’t too far behind Allen, amassing 395.76 points and 374.22 points, respectively. All three QBs ended the fantasy season averaging at least 22 fantasy points per game and look to mirror that production this year.

DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2022 fantasy cheat sheet

Below, we’ll dive into the cases for each to be the first quarterback selected before ultimately coming to a verdict on who should be No. 1 and where you should draft them.

2022 STANDARD RANKINGS:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Kickers | Top 200 | Superflex

Josh Allen vs. Justin Herbert vs. Patrick Mahomes: Who’s the best fantasy QB?

Josh Allen

Allen has finished as the overall QB1 in back-to-back seasons and has a real shot to lead all QBs in scoring for a third consecutive year. Buffalo is pegged as the betting favorites to win Super Bowl LVII (+600), and the expectation around the league is for Allen to continue his dominant play. Allen’s ADP (around 24) is about a round higher than Herbert and Mahomes, as he’s clearly separated himself from the other 31 starting QBs in terms of his fantasy value.

While he won’t have OC Brian Daboll around to scheme the offense, new OC and ex-QB coach Ken Dorsey has already built up trust and a strong rapport with Allen. Buffalo’s tailored offensive system helped Allen sit atop the league in red-zone passing (129) and rushing attempts (32) in 2021. Allen also logged the second-most air yards (5,583) and fantasy points per dropback (0.62). He has three solid WRs (Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, Jamison Crowder), a good TE (Dawson Knox), and capable receiving backs (Devin Singletary, James Cook). All of this is baked into his ADP, but it’s worthwhile to understand exactly what separates Allen from other QBs.

It’s tough to find anything to knock Allen on, but thinking down the line, Buffalo’s late-season games won’t be played in pretty weather, limiting Allen’s ceiling for big games in arguably the most important weeks in the fantasy season. Buffalo’s last six games of the season feature six outdoor matchups, with three of the games being played in Buffalo and the other three held in New England, Chicago, and Cincinnati.

Additionally, Buffalo increased its run rate by nearly four percentage points from its season average over its final three games in ’21. They also sat in the top half of the league in run rate in home games (43.32 percent). While there’s certainly much more context that factors into that number, mainly game script, it’s an interesting tidbit to keep note of when drafting Allen. Herbert and Mahomes likely won’t be playing in as bad of weather down the stretch, but that’s a very minor point in their favors (if it is at all).

The only real worry with Allen is whether he’ll keep running at his current rate. Virtually all “mobile” QBs run less as they get older. We saw dramatic decreases in rushing output from Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, and Dak Prescott last year. Allen can still be the No. 1 fantasy QB with 421 rushing yards like he had in ’20, but if he’s that far below last season’s 763-yard mark, he won’t be worth as high of an overall pick.

No one will fault you for selecting Allen as your QB1 unless you reach for him in Round 1 or early Round 2 in 12-team leagues. If Allen is there at the very end of the second round or into the third, he yields sufficient value.

2022 PPR RANKINGS:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Kickers | Top 200 | Superflex

Justin Herbert

After finishing last year as the overall QB2, Herbert hopes to put forth his most complete season yet. During his sophomore campaign, Herbert logged the third-most air yards (5275), passing TDs (38), and red-zone carries (23). He doesn’t possess the same rushing prowess Allen does, as he ran for just 302 yards in 2021 (10th among QBs), which slightly limits his ceiling.

Despite averaging 3.7 carries per game (17th among QBs), his volume did tick up in the red zone, as he ranked fifth among QBs in red-zone carries per game (1.4). Herbert’s likely to see a higher rushing TD output in ’22 given he scored just three rushing TDs (ninth among QBs) on 23 red-zone carries. Herbert had two more rushing TDs during his rookie season on four fewer red-zone rushes, showcasing touchdown variance on a year-to-year basis.

Fantasy owners can realistically bank on another 5,000-yard season from the rocket-armed QB, as the Chargers’ pass-heavy offense is catered toward Herbert’s strengths. There’s a real shot he contends with Allen for QB1 status in the fantasy world, as Los Angeles threw at the fifth-highest rate in the league last season and features a bevy of solid pass-catchers (Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer, Austin Ekeler).

Herbert and the Chargers’ schedule during the fantasy playoffs isn’t remotely easy, as they face the Titans, Colts, and Rams from Weeks 15-17, but at least these games will be played under fair weather conditions, unlike Allen’s fantasy playoffs schedule .

2022 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | One from each team

Patrick Mahomes

Mahomes enters 2022 with Kansas City toward the top of the league in vacant targets following the departures of Tyreek Hill, Demarcus Robinson, and Byron Pringle. The Chiefs’ front office tried its hand at reassembling their WR corps, bringing in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marques Valdez-Scantling, and rookie Skyy Moore. Kansas City’s three new WRs should mesh well over time, but there’s not much continuity in this group of pass catchers entering the season outside of Travis Kelce and Mecole Hardman.

Despite playing two more games in ’21, Mahomes put up similar numbers to his 15-game output in ’20. He threw for just 99 more yards with the exact same completion percentage (66.3). He tossed one fewer TD for an average of 3.4 fewer fantasy points per game. Mahomes also saw a decline in his rushing carries per game, which was a theme among most of the QBs last season, but it still results in fewer points fantasy owners can bank on week-to-week.

Mahomes is still as consistent as it comes in the production department, but at the end of the day, ADP is the biggest deciding factor. At his early ADP, he’s not really worth a third-round pick given the small deviation between the other QBs available in the later rounds.

It’s fair to expect Mahomes to potentially start off slowly with a new receiving corps. You can’t deny his skill set and his IQ, but if anything he’s a bit overpriced at his 32.7 ADP.

2022 AUCTION VALUES (Standard & PPR):
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Kickers | Overall

Verdict

As we mentioned before, with Allen’s ADP coming in about a round higher than Herbert’s and Mahomes’, he’s the undisputed top QB to go off the board in fantasy drafts, which makes sense given his rushing ceiling. In terms of draft value, Herbert might actually possess the most bang for your buck, but that will ultimately be determined by touchdown variance.

There’s really not enough deviation in QB scoring that warrants selecting one of these top-tier guys in the first or second rounds of your drafts, though. Last season, the top-10 QBs all amassed an average of at least 20 fantasy points per game, and QBs 6-10 all played fewer than 17 games. Had they been healthy for all 17 games, the deviation would be even less. It’s not as if Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson or even Tom Brady, among others, can’t also contend for the top spot when it’s all said and done.

2022 RANKINGS TIERS & DRAFT STRATEGY:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs

While Allen, Mahomes, and Herbert are still the highest-upside QBs given their talent, high passing rate, and their ability to earn points on the ground, selecting a QB early puts you in a position to nail most of the rest of your draft picks at RB and WR.

If you’re itching to have a top-tier quarterback on your fantasy roster, go for it, but just know you better make wise decisions in the later rounds in order to compose a well-rounded roster.

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